Imperial Cup Tips, Betting Offers and Free Bets

Imperial Cup Preview: Tips, Betting Offers and Odds, Sandown

*** Note: Saturday’s meeting at Sandown has been abandoned due to a waterlogged course. So why not get your Cheltenham bets planned instead: check out our Cheltenham Tips with loads of great betting offers. ***

The final big jumps race before the Cheltenham Festival jamboree begins is the historic Imperial Cup held at Sandown on the Saturday before the Festival. Look no further for the best odds, offers and betting tips surrounding the race.

First held at Sandown Park way back in 1907, this Grade 3 handicap hurdle is run over a distance of 2m 110yards. The race is always a hotly contested affair and generally attracts a large field of runners, with this year’s renewal no different, with a nice £100k bonus if the winner here also lands one at the Festival.

Imperial Cup Tips and Preview 2020

The Imperial Cup at Sandown is the big race of the weekend before the Cheltenham Festival. As ever, this Grade 3 handicap hurdle has attracted a large number of early entries with connections enticed by the handsome prize fund on offer for this 2 mile contest.

Time For a Winning Favourite?

The Imperial Cup is an historic race which first took place back in 1907. Well over 100 years of history has given punters plenty to go on in terms of profiling a potential winner. One of the most interesting recent trends is the relatively poor record of favourites with none obliging their backers since legend Tony McCoy guided Qaspal to success in 2010 but could that trend be reset on Saturday?

The bookies are currently unable to come down definitively on whether favouritism for the 2020 Imperial Cup should go to Mack The Man or Shakem Up’Arry. Both six-year-olds have shown real class over hurdles this season and both are available at odds of 5/1 with the bookies. It’s the former who just about gets the nod though, as he fits the profile of an Imperial Cup winner very well.

Like each of the last 10 winners, Mack The Man will carry less than 11st 3lb on Saturday. He’s also in the right age bracket at six and, unlike Shakem Up’Arry, has run within the last six weeks. That most recent run saw him brought down when well positioned in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

The quality of his run at Newbury was all the more impressive as it came on good ground. Evan Williams’ charge has tended to do most of his good work when there’s cut in the surface so he’ll relish the heavy going at Sandown. A course and distance winner with bags of class, Mack The Man is a favourite you can trust.

Sir Valentine to Dig Deep

Official statistics recently confirmed what many in racing suspected, that last month was the wettest February on record in Britain. The vast amount of rain that has fallen has played havoc with racing and Sandown will have to pass an inspection on Saturday morning in order for the Imperial Cup to take place.

Connections of every horse in the field will be praying that it passes said inspection but those supporting Sir Valentine will be especially keen. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ seven-year-old hasn’t been able to make the most of the tricky ground conditions recently but ran well enough in defeat at Wetherby and Ascot before looking just a little short of class compared to the market principles in the Betfair Hurdle.

Sir Valentine is the sort of reliable performer that you’d very much want to have on board in a competitive race like this run on such heavy ground. What he lacks in class he more than makes up for in heart suggesting that an each way bet is in order at big odds of 12/1 with bet365.

Betting Predictions

The Imperial Cup usually fits the bill of building excitement for Cheltenham. This year’s renewal promises to be particularly enthralling with plenty of good value around the best of which is provided by Mack The Man at 5/1 with Coral and Sir Valentine at 12/1 with bet365.

Previous Race Winners

  • 2019 – Malaya – jockey Harry Cobden, trainer Paul Nicholls
  • 2018 – Mr Antolini – jockey Jamie Bargary, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies
  • 2017 – London Prize – jockey Tom O’Brien, trainer Ian Williams
  • 2016 – Flying Angel – jockey Ryan Hatch, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies
  • 2015 – Ebony Express – jockey Will Kennedy, trainer Dr Richard Newland
  • 2014 – Baltimore Rock – jockey Tom Scudamore, trainer David Pipe
  • 2013 – First Avenue – jockey Nathan Adams, trainer Laura Mongan
  • 2012 – Paintball – jockey Noel Fehily, trainer Charlie Longsdon
  • 2011 – Alarazi – jockey Dominic Elsworth, trainer Lucy Wadham
  • 2010 – Qaspal – jockey Tony McCoy, trainer Philip Hobbs
  • 2009 – Dave’s Dream – jockey Barry Geraghty, trainer Nicky Henderson
  • 2008 – Ashkazar – jockey Timmy Murphy, trainer David Pipe
  • 2007 – Gaspara – jockey Tony McCoy, trainer David Pipe
  • 2006 – Victram – jockey Andrew Lynch, trainer Y

Imperial Cup History

Having passed its century of existence in 2007, this event is a well-established part of the jumps racing calendar. Indeed prior to the advent of the Champion Hurdle in 1927, this was the most prestigious race over the smaller obstacles on the fixture list. Having long been a Listed class contest, the race was elevated to Grade 3 status for the first time in 2014.

Given the proximity to the Cheltenham Festival, organisers have added a bonus incentive in order to attract runners to this contest. Any horse that wins the Imperial Cup, and then goes on to land any race at the Cheltenham Festival, will be awarded a bonus of £100,000. Only three horses have achieved this feat to date, all trained by a handler with the surname Pipe. Olympian and Blowing Wind for Martin and Gaspara for his son David.

The Pipes have an enviable record here. David has saddled the only two four-year-olds to win the race in the modern era; 2007 winner Gaspara and 2008 hero Ashkazar. In addition to the aforementioned duo, David Pipe sent out 2014 winner Baltimore Rock. Meanwhile Martin Pipe holds the record for the most wins overall, with six victories between 1989 and 2005.

Sir Tony McCoy of course enjoyed a spectacular run of success with Martin Pipe in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, a golden period which included three wins in this race. Having also won aboard Gaspara for David Pipe and Qaspal in 2010 for Philip Hobbs, McCoy is out in front as the most successful jockey here with five wins.

Historically this race has been the domain of the younger speedier runners. Between 1947 and 2015 there have been just five winners over the age of seven. With only eight flights of hurdles to negotiate and Kempton being a relatively tight track, speed and quick accurate jumping are the order of the day.

Being such a competitive handicap contest, it should come as little surprise that there have been few multiple winners over the years. Secret Service (1949-50) and Highpoint (1952-53) are the only horses to win back to back editions in the modern era. Precious Boy is the most recent dual winner having triumphed in 1991 and 1994 under Lorcan Wyer.

Probably the classiest horse to win here is Jim Old’s Collier Bay. Having achieved very little on the flat for John Gosden, this horse improved markedly for the switch to hurdles. Following his wine in this race in 1995, he then went on to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in 1996.